Five Keys to Victory takes a look at the keys to a Syracuse victory in the season opener against Villanova.

Syracuse faces Villanova inside the Carrier Dome tonight to kickoff the 2014 season. How can the Orange ensure a positive start to the season? Here are our five keys to victory.

1. Play smart. This sound simplistic, but in a game where Syracuse has the more talented roster, playing smart is the key. Don’t give up the big play. Don’t make the big mistake. If Syracuse sticks to their plan and focuses on execution, the result will be what the Orange are expecting.

2. Control the line of scrimmage. Syracuse has a size, strength and athleticism advantage up front. Games are still won at the line of scrimmage even in today’s up-tempo, high-octane offensive world. Look for the Syracuse offensive line to assert their dominance and open holes for the ground attack while protecting Terrel Hunt. Expect the Syracuse defensive lines, despite its question mark, to play behind the line of scrimmage.

3. Take care of the ball. Whenever upsets happen, the favorite generally turns the ball over. If Syracuse takes care of the ball, everything else will take care of itself. This goes along with number one and will be important all season.

4. Play fast. The Syracuse offense wants to run 15-20 more plays per game than they did last season. With a returning quarterback, several returning skill position players, and a majority of the offensive line back, the Orange have a lot of continuity. With a roster that is more talented than Villanova, playing fast will help wear down their front seven and keep them off balance. That could lead to huge gains, especially in the second half.

5. Tackle well. Syracuse has had trouble with dual threat quarterbacks over the past few years. Matching up against an FCS opponent, it is important that the defense plays fundamental football. Tackling quarterback John Robertson to prevent big gains will cause the ‘Nova offense to sputter. Big plays will be for the Wildcats if they are to stay close. Solid tackling all over the field will keep those plays to a minimum.

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